There’s no question about it—the world as an independent musician is a rough and tumble place. Getting your music heard while growing a solid, supportive fanbase is a challenge without end for those who live by the DIY-or-die ethos.

Social media plays a hugely-important role in the quest for indie hip-hop supremacy, but it’s easy for your music and your brand to drown in the noise if you don’t have a tight social game.

Among the social platforms, YouTube remains one of the best ways to engage an audience for just about anything, whether it’s creating a how-to video of 100 cool life hacks, garnering 50 million views with poker videos, or fittingly, producing an instructional video about promoting your music online.

It’s the perfect platform for independent artists to reach loyal hip-hop fans or gain exposure with the uninitiated. With this in mind, here are a few killer tips to help you master YouTube.

Get Your Channel Right

The first order of business is to let the world know who you are when you establish your YouTube channel. After all, you don’t want viewers to confuse your channel with cute cat videos or home renovation instructions.

This is done by setting your channel type to Musician under the “Settings” section of your YouTube account. Once your channel is configured as a musician, you’ll be able to add more fan-enticing goodies like concert dates to your pages.

The images featured on your channel page are important. They are often the first thing to capture a visitor’s attention before a single video is played. Invest time in carefully selecting images that command attention for your channel icon and channel art.

It’s recommended that featured photos be landscape or panorama. Set the transparency between 10% and 40% so that your photo is visible through foreground boxes on the channel page. You should also set the background color to something that complements your photos, creating a cohesive page design.

Tags, Tags, and More Tags

Tags are those keywords placed on your channel page and videos that help YouTube’s search engine know what kind of content you have. In turn, viewers entering search terms that match or contain your keywords are shown your channel in their search results.

Tags are your bat signal to the interwebs that scream, “Hey, I’m an indie artist you should know about. Come look at me!” Use tags liberally in your video titles and descriptions by calling out your name, song titles, genre, location, social media pages, and any other relevant information fans need to find your music online.

Engage Directly with Your Audience

In addition to your music videos, lyric videos, and behind-the-scenes footage, post content that directly addresses your fans. This could be as simple as a video thanking visitors for stopping by your channel. Not enough artists do this, and it’s an easy way to stand apart from the crowd.

If you’re a live-performing artist, create announcement videos for each show. Be sure to drop details like date, time and venue, and plug other performers on the bill. Invite fans to personally meet with you and hang out before or after you hit the stage.

The same goes for when you’re getting ready to drop a new track or album. Let your fans know what’s up with your latest project with a specialized announcement clip or series of videos. Bring them into your world by sharing studio footage or audio snippets of your new song.

You can even discuss the inspiration and creative process that went into producing your latest gem so that fans are armed with the inside scoop when you release the goods.

And, of course, don’t forget to mention where folks can purchase your new music, and be sure to post the appropriate links!

Hone Your Craft

This should go without saying, but all the marketing and subscriber-growing strategies in the world won’t do much if your product isn’t on point. Always remember why you got in the game in the first place. Hint: it’s the music.

Stay focused on improving your craft and make each new track better than the last. Winning as an independent artist is a long game. You will always find an audience if you put out high-quality, dope tunes that showcase your personality and unique hip-hop gifts.

YouTube can be incredibly rewarding and blast your career to the next level if you put in the time and do it right. Once again, this is a long game. Don’t expect to reach 1 million or even 10,000 subscribers overnight. However, those numbers are quite possible if you trust the process and stay on the grind.

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Written by Hao Nguyen
Stop The Breaks is an independent music marketing company focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists. Our goal is to help motivate, inspire and educate independent artists grinding around the world. We provide branding, content marketing, social media, SEO and music promotion services.